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" Slavery is a mass, a system of enormities, which incontrovertibly 
bids defiance to evefy regulation which ingenuity can devise, or power 
effect, but a total extinction. Why ought slavery to be abolished ? 
Because it is incurable injustice. Why is injustice to remain for a single 
hour?" William Pitt'. 









I \y» 







"Slavery is a mass, a system of enormities, which incoiitroveitibly 
bids defiance to every regulation which ingenuity can devise, or power 
effect, but a total extinction. Why ought slavery to be abolished ? 
Because it is incurable injustice. Why is injustico to remain for a single 
hour?" William Pi it 






18 4 4. 


*** It is not improbable that some of the proper names in ti»fc follow- 
ing pages are incorrectly spelled. M. G., through the laws of the slave 
slates, is perfectly illiterate ; his pronunciation being the uulv guide. 

■Robinson J?»>» 4 - 


About a fortnight ago, the subject of the following brief 
Memoir came to me, bearing with him a letter from a dear 
friend and distinguished abolitionist in the United States, 
from which the following is an extract: — 'I seize my pen 
in haste to gratify a most worthy colored friend of mine, by 
giving him a letter of introduction to you, as he intends 
sailing this week (August 8th, 1842) for Liverpool and 
London, via New Orleans. His name is Moses Grandy. 
He knows what it is to have been a slave, and what are 
the tender mercies of the southern slave-drivers. His his- 
tory is not only authentic, but most extraordinary, and full 
of thrilling interest. Could it be published, it would make 
a deep sensation in every quarter. He was compelled to 
buy his freedom three times over! He paid for it $1,850. 
He has since bouo-ht his wife, and one or two of his chil- 
dren ; and before going to England will first go to New 
Orleans, to purchase some of his other children, if he can 
find them, who are still held in captivity. His benevolence, 
affection, kindness of heart, and elasticity of spirit, are truly 
remarkable. He has a good head, a fine countenance, and 
a great spirit, notwithstanding his education has been ob- 
tained in the horrible school of slavery. Just get him to 
tell you his narrative, and if you happen to have an anti- 
slavery meeting, let him tell his tale to a British audience.' 
In the letter of another highly esteemed friend, he is spoken 
of as ' unsurpassed for faithfulness and perseverance ; ' in 
the letter of a third, as a ' worthy and respectable man.' 


On examining a book containing a list of the donations 
made him by American friends, in aid of his noble design 
to rescue from the miseries of slavery his relations, I found 
the names and certificates of persons of the highest re- 
spectability. It will be amply sufficient with those who 
are acquainted with the Abolitionists of the United States 
for me to name General Fessenden, and Nathan Winslow, 
Esq., of Portland, Maine ; the Rev. A. A. Phelps, Ellis 
Gray Loring, and Samuel E. Sewall, Esqs., of Boston, 
Massachusetts. Being satisfied, by these indubitable vouch- 
ers, of Moses Grandy's title to credit, I listened to his 
artless tale with entire confidence, and with a feeling of 
interest which all will participate who peruse the following 
pages. Considering his Narrative calculated to promote a 
more extensive knowledge of the workings of American 
slavery, and that its sale might contribute to the object 
which engages so entirely the mind of Moses, namely, the 
redemption of those who are in bonds, belonging to his 
family, I resolved to commit it to the press, as nearly as 
possible in the language of Moses himself. I have carefully 
abstained from casting a single reflection or animadversion 
of my own. I leave the touching story of the self-liberated 
captive to speak for itself, and the wish of my heart will be 
gratified, and my humble effort on his behalf be richly 
rewarded, if this little book is the means of obtaining for 
my colored brother the assistance which he seeks, or of 
increasing the zeal of those who are associated for the 
purpose of 'breaking every yoke and setting the oppressed 


9, Blandford Place, Regent's Park, 
October 18th, 1842. 


My name is Moses Grandy. I was born in Cam- 
den county, North Carolina. I believe I am fifty- 
six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how 
old they are ; neither they nor their masters set 
down the time of a birth ; the slaves, because 
they are not allowed to write or read, and the 
masters, because they only care to know what slaves 
belong to them. 

The master, Billy Grandy, whose slave I was 
born, was a hard-drinking man ; he sold away 
many slaves. I remember four sisters and four 
brothers ; my mother had more children, but they 
were dead or sold away before I can remember. I 
was the youngest. I remember well my mother 
often hid us all in the woods, to prevent master 
sellino- us. When we wanted water, she sought 
for it in any hole or puddle formed by falling trees 
or otherwise. It was often full of tadpoles and 
insects. She strained it, and gave it round to each 
of us in the hollow of her hand. For food, she 
gathered berries in the woods, got potatoes, raw 
corn, &c. After a time, the master would send 
word to her to come in, promising he would not 
sell us. But, at length, persons came who agreed 


to give the prices he set on us. His wife, with 
much to be done, prevailed on him not to sell me; 
but he sold my brother, who was a little boy. My 
mother, frantic with grief, resisted their taking her 
child away. She was beaten, and held down ; she 
fainted ; and, when she came to herself, her boy 
was gone. She made much outcry, for which the 
master tied her up to a peach-tree in the yard, and 
flogged her. 

Another of my brothers was sold to Mr. Tyler, 
Dewan's Neck, Pasquotank county. This man very 
much ill treated many colored boys. One very 
cold day, he sent my brother out, naked and hun- 
gry, to find a yoke of steers ; the boy returned 
without finding them, when his master flogged him, 
and sent him out again. A white lady, who lived 
near, gave him food, and advised him to try again ; 
he did so, but, it seems, again without success. He 
piled up a heap of leaves, and laid himself down 
in them, and died there. He was found through a 
flock of turkey buzzards hovering over him ; these 
birds had pulled his eyes out. 

My young master and I used to play together; 
there was but two days' difference in our ages. 
My old master always said he would give me to 
him. When he died, all the colored people were 
divided amongst his children, and I fell to young 
master; his name was James Grandy. I was then 
about eight years old. When I became old 
enough to be taken away from my mother and put 
to field work, I was hired out for the year, by auc- 
tion, at the court house, every January : this is 
the common practice with respect to slaves belong- 
ing to persons who are under age. This continued 
till my master and myself were twenty-one years 


The first who hired me was Mr. Kemp, who 
used me pretty well ; he gave me plenty to eat, 
and sufficient clothing. 

The next was old Jemmy Coates, a severe man. 
Because I could not learn his way of hilling corn, 
he flogged me naked with a severe whip, made of 
a very tough sapling; this lapped round me at each 
stroke; the point of it at last entered my belly and 
broke off, leaving an inch and a half outside. I 
was not aware of it until, on going to work again, 
it hurt my inside very much, when, on looking 
down, I saw it sticking out of my body. I pulled it 
out, and the blood spouted after it. The wound 
festered, and discharged very much at the time, 
and hurt me for years after. 

In being hired out, sometimes the slave gets a 
good home, and sometimes a bad one : when he 
gets a good one, he dreads to see January come ; 
when he has a bad one, the year seems five times 
as long as it is. 

I was next with Mr. Enoch Sawyer, of Camden 
county. My business was to keep ferry, and do 
other odd work. It was cruel living. We had not 
near enough of either victuals or clothes. I was 
half starved for half my time. I have often ground 
the husks of Indian corn over again in a hand-mill, 
for the chance of getting something to eat out of 
it which the former grinding had left. In severe 
frosts, I was compelled to go into the fields and 
woods to work, with my naked feet cracked and 
bleeding from extreme cold : to warm them, I used 
to rouse an ox or hog, and stand on the place where 
it had lain. I was at that place three years, and 
very long years they seemed to me. The trick by 
which he kept me so long was this : the court 


house was but a mile off. At hiring day, he pre- 
vented me from going till he went himself and bid 
for me. On the last occasion, he was detained for 
a little while by other business ; so I ran as quickly 
as I could, and got hired before he came up. 

Mr. George Furley was my next master; he em- 
ployed me as a cnr-boy in the Dismal Swamp; I 
had to drive lumber, &,c. I had plenty to eat and 
plenty of clothes. I was so overjoyed at the 
change, that I then thought I would not have left 
the place to go to heaven. 

Next year I was hired by Mr. John Micheau, of 
the same county, who married my young mistress, 
one of the daughters of Mr. Grandy, and sister of 
my present owner. This master gave us very few 
clothes, and but little to eat. I was almost naked. 
One day he came into the field, and asked why no 
more work was done. The older people were 
afraid of him ; so I said that the reason was, we 
were so hungry we could not work. He went 
home and told the mistress to give as plenty to eat, 
and at dinner-time we had plenty. We came out 
shouting for joy, and went to work with delight. 
From that time we had food enough, and he soon 
found that he had a great deal more work done. 
The field was quite alive with people striving who 
should do most. 

He hired me for another year. He was a great 
gambler. He kept me up five nights together, with- 
out sleep night or day, to wait on the gambling ta- 
ble. I was standing in the corner of the room, nod- 
ding for want of sleep, when he took up the shovel 
and beat me with it; he dislocated my shoulder, and 
sprained my wrist, and broke the shovel over me. 
I ran away, and got another person to hire me. 


This person was Mr. Richard Furley, who, after 
that, hired me at the court house every year till 
my master came of age. He gave me a pass to 
work for myself; so I obtained work by the piece 
where I could, and paid him out of my earnings 
what we had agreed on ; I maintained myself on 
the rest, and saved what I could. In this way I 
was not liable to be flogged and ill used. He paid 
seventy, eighty, or ninety dollars a year for me, 
and I paid him twenty or thirty dollars a year more 
than that. 

When my master came of age, he took all his 
colored people to himself. Seeing that I was in- 
dustrious and persevering, and had obtained plenty 
of work, he made me pay him almost twice as 
much as I had paid Mr. Furley. At that time the 
English blockaded the Chesapeake, which made it 
necessary to send merchandise from Norfolk to 
Elizabeth City by the Grand Canal, so that it might 
get to sea by Pamlico Sound and Ocracock Inlet. 
I took some canal boats on shares ; Mr. Grice, who 
married my other young mistress, was the owner 
of them. I crave him one half of all I received for 
freight; out of the other half I had to victual and 
man the boats, and all over that expense was my 
own profit. 

Some time before this, my brother Benjamin re- 
turned from the West Indies, where he had been 
two years with his master's vessel. I was very 
glad to hear of it, and got leave to go see him. 
While I was sitting with his wife and him, his 
wife's master came and asked him to fetch a can 
of water ; he did so, and carried it into the store. 
While I was waiting for him, and wondering at his 
being so long away, I heard the heavy blows of a 


hammer : after a little while I was alarmed, and 
went to see what was going on. I looked into the 
store, and saw my brother lying on his back on the 
floor, and Mr. Williams, who had bought him, driv- 
ing staples over his wrists and ankles ; an iron bar 
was afterwards put across his breast, which was 
also held down by staples. I asked what he had 
been doing, and was told that he had done nothing 
amiss, but that his master had failed, and he was 
sold towards paying the debts. He lay in that 
state all that night; next day he was taken to jail, 
and I never saw him again. This is the usual 
treatment under such circumstances. I had to go 
by my mother's next morning, but I feared to tell 
her what had happened to my brother. I got a boy 
to go and tell her. She was blind and very old, 
and was living in a little hut, in the woods, after 
the usual manner of old, worn-out slaves; she was 
unable to go to my brother before he was taken 
away, and grieved after him greatly. 

It was some time after this that I married a 
slave belonging to Mr. Enoch Sawyer, who had 
been so hard a master to me. I left her at home, 
(that is, at his house,) one Thursday morning, 
when we had been married about eight months. 
She was well, and seemed likely to be so. We 
were nicely getting together our little necessaries. 
On the Friday, as I was at work, as usual, with the 
boats, I heard a noise behind me, on the road which 
ran by the side of the canal. I turned to look, and 
saw a gang of slaves coming. When they came 
up to me, one of them cried out, ' Moses, my dear ! ' 
I wondered who among them should know me, and 
found it was my wife. She cried out to me, « I am 
gone ! ' I was struck with consternation. Mr. Roger- 


son was with them, on his horse, armed with pistols. 
I said to him, ' For God's sake, have you bought 
my wife 1 ' He said he had ; when I asked him 
what she had done, he said she had done nothing, 
but that her master wanted money. He drew out 
a pistol, and said that, if I went near the wagon on 
which she was, he would shoot me. I asked for 
leave to shake hands with her, which he refused, 
but said I might stand at a distance and talk with 
her. My heart was so full that I could say very 
little. I asked leave to give her a dram. He told 
Mr. Burgess, the man who was with him, to get 
down and carry it to her. I gave her the little 
money I had in my pocket, and bade her farewell. 
I have never seen or heard of her from that day to 
this. I loved her as I loved my life. 

Mr. Grice found that I served him faithfully. 
He and my young mistress, his wife, advised me, 
as I was getting money fast, to try to buy myself. 
By their advice, I asked my master what he would 
take for me. He wanted $800 ; and, when I said 
that was too much, he replied, he could get $1000 
for me any minute. Mr. Grice afterwards went 
with me to him ; he said to him that I had already 
been more profitable to him than any five others 
of his negroes, and reminded him that we had been 
playfellows. In this way he got him to consent to 
take $600 for me. I then went heartily to work, 
and, whenever I paid him for my time, I paid him 
something, also, towards my freedom, for which he 
gave me receipts. When I made him the last pay- 
ment of the $600 for my freedom, he tore up 
all the receipts. I told him he ought not to have 
done so ; he replied it did not signify, for, as soon 
as court day came, he should give me my free 


papers. On Monday, in court week, I went to him ; 
he was playing at billiards, and would not go with 
me, but told me to come again the next day ; the 
next day he did the same, and so on daily. I went 
to his sister, Mrs. Grice, and told her I feared that 
he did not mean to give them to me ; she said she 
feared so too, and sent for him. He was a very 
wicked young man; he came, and cursed her, and 
went out of the house. Mr. Grice was from home ; 
on his return, he went to my master, and told him 
he ought to give me my free papers ; that I had 
paid for myself, and it was court week, so that 
there was no excuse. He promised he would ; 
instead of which, he rode away, and kept away till 
court was over. Before the next court came, he 
sold me to Mr. Trewitt for $600. 

The way in which Mr. Trewitt came to buy me 
was this : I had left the boats, and had gone with 
a schooner collecting lumber in Albemarle Sound 
for the merchants. Coming to Elizabeth City, I 
found a new store had been opened by Mr. Grice, 
which Mr. Sutton was keeping : the latter gentle- 
man was glad to see me, and was desirous that I 
should return to my old employment with the canal 
boats, as lumber was in great demand at Norfolk. 
I did so, and sold some cargoes to Mr. Moses My- 
ers, of Norfolk. As I was waiting at the door of 
his store for settlement, he came up with Mr. Tre- 
witt, whom I did not then know. Mr. Myers said 
to Mr. Trewitt, ' Here is a captain doing business 
for you.' Mr. Trewitt then asked me who had 
chartered the boats, and to whom I belonged. I 
told him Mr. Sutton had chartered me, and that I 
had belonged to Mr. James Grandy, but had bought 
myself. He said he would buy me; on which Mr 


Myers told him he could not, as I had already 
bought myself, and further said I was one of their 
old war captains, and had never lost a single thing 
of the property intrusted to me. Mr. Trewitt said 
he would buy me, and would see about it as soon 
as he got to Elizabeth City. I thought no more 
about it. On my return voyage, I delivered a car- 
go at Elizabeth City, for Mr. Trewitt. I had been 
at Mr. Grice's, the owner of the boats ; and, on my 
going away from him to meet Mr. Trewitt for set- 
tlement, he said he would go with me, as he want- 
ed money. Opposite the custom house we met 
Mr. Trewitt, who said, 'Well, captain, I have 
bought you.' Mr. Grice said, ' Let us have no non- 
sense ; go and settle with him.' Angry words 
passed between them, one saying he had bought 
me, and the other denying that he had or could, 
as I had bought myself already. We all went to 
Mr. Grice's dwelling house ; there Mr. Trewitt set- 
tled with me about the freight, and then, jumping 
up, said, ' Now I will show you, Mr. Grice, whether 
I am a liar or not.' He fetched the bill of sale ; 
on reading it, Mr. Grice's color changed, and he 
sent for Mrs. Grice. When she read it, she began 
to cry ; seeing that, I began to cry too. She sent 
me to her brother, who was at Mr. Wood's board- 
ing house. He was playing at billiards. I said to 
him, ' Master James, have you sold me 1 ' He said, 
1 No.' I said he had ; when he turned round and 
went into another room, crying; I followed him. 
All the gentlemen followed us, saying, ' Captain 
Grandy, what is the matter?' I told them Master 
James had sold me again. They asked him why 
he had done it ; he said it was because people had 
jeered him by saying I had more sense than he 


had. They would not suffer him to remain in the 
boarding house, but turned him out, there and then, 
with all his trunks and boxes. Mrs. Grice, his sis- 
ter, sued him in my name for my liberty, but he 
gained the cause. The court maintained that I, and 
all I could do, belonged to him, and that he had a 
right to do as he pleased with me and all my earn- 
ings, as his own property, until he had taken me to 
the court house, and given me my free papers, 
and until, besides that, I had been a year and a 
day in the Northern States to gain my residence. 
So I was forced to go to Mr. Trewitt. He agreed 
that, if I would pay him the same wages as I paid 
my late master, and the -$690 he gave for me', he 
would give me my free papers. He bought two 
canal boats, and. taking me out of Mr. Grice's em- 
ployment, set me to work them on the same terms 
as I did for my former master. I was two years 
and a half in earning 8600 to pay for myself the 
second time. Just when I had completed the pay- 
ment, he failed. On Christmas eve he gave me a 
letter to take to Mr. Mews, at Newbegun Creek. 
I was rather unwilling to take it, wishing to go to 
my wife ; I told him, too, I was going to his office 
to settle with him. He offered to give me two 
dollars to take the letter, and said he would settle 
when I came back : then Mr. Shaw came from 
another room, and said his vessel was ready loaded, 
but he had nobody he could trust with his goods ; 
he offered me five dollars to take the vessel down, 
and deliver the goods to Mr. Knox, who also was 
at Newbegun Creek. The wind was fair, and the 
hands on board, so I agreed : it being Christmas 
eve, I was glad of something to carry to my wife. 
J ran the vessel down to the mouth of the creek, 


and anchored ; when the moon rose, I went up the 
river. I reached the wharf, and commenced taking 
out the goods that night, and delivered them all 
safely to Mr. Knox next morning. I then took the 
letter to Mr. Mews, who read it, and, looking up at 
me, said, ' Well, you belong to me.' I thought he 
was joking, and said, ' How 1 What way?' He 
said, ' Don't you recollect when Trewitt chartered 
Wilson Sawyer's brig to the West Indies 1 ' I said, 
I did. He told me Trewitt then came to him to 
borrow $600, which he would not lend, except he 
had a mortgage on me : Trewitt was to take it up 
at a certain time, but never did. I asked him 
whether he really took the mortgage on me. He 
replied that he certainly thought Trewitt would 
have taken up the mortgage, but he had failed, and 
was not worth a cent, and he, Mews, must have 
his money. I asked him whether he had not 
helped me and my young mistress in the court 
house, when master James fooled me before. He 
said he did help me all he could, and that he should 
not have taken a mortgage on me, but that he 
thought Trewitt would take it up. Trewitt must 
have received some of the last payments from me, 
after he had given the mortgage, and knew he 
should fail ; for the mortgage was given two months 
before this time. 

My head seemed to turn round and round ; I was 
quite out of my senses ; I went away towards the 
woods ; Mr. Mews sent his waiter after me to per- 
suade me to go back. At first I refused, but after- 
wards went. He told me he would give me another 
chance to buy myself, and I certainly should have 
my freedom that time. He said Mr. Enoch Saw- 
yer wanted to buy me, to be his overseer in the 


Swamp. I replied I would never try again to buy 
myself, and that they had already got $1,200 from 
me. My wife* (this was my second wife) be- 
longed to Mr. Sawyer ; he told me that her master 
would not allow me to go to see her, if I would 
not consent to what he now proposed ; for any col- 
ored person going on the grounds of a white man, 
after being warned off, is liable to be flogged, or 
even shot. I thus found myself forced to go, al- 
though no colored man wishes to live at the house 
where his wife lives, for he has to endure the con- 
tinual misery of seeing her flogged and abused, 
without daring to say a word in her defence. 

In the service of Mr. Sawyer, I got into a fair 
way of buying myself again ; for I undertook the 
lightering of shingles or boards out of the Dismal 
Swamp, and hired hands to assist me. But my 
master had become security for his two sons-in-law 
at Norfolk, who failed ; in consequence of which 
he sold eighteen colored people, his share of the 
Swamp, and two plantations. I was one of the 
slaves he kept, and after that had to work in the 
corn-field the same as the rest. The overseer was 
a bad one ; his name was Brooks. The horn was 
blown at sunrise ; the colored people had then to 
march before the overseer to the field, he on horse- 

* It will be observed that the narrator married a second wife, without 
having heard of the decease of the first. To explain this fact, it is ne- 
cessary to state, that the frequent occurrence of cases where husbands 
and wives, members of Christian societies, were finally separated by sale, 
led the ministers, some years ago, to deliberate on the subject : they de- 
cided that such separation might be considered as the death of the parties 
to each other, and they therefore agreed to consider subsequent marriages 
not immoral. The practice is general. It is scarcely necessary to re- 
mark, that a more unequivocal and impressive proof of the heinous na- 
ture of the system could hardly exist. It breaks up the fondest connec- 
tions, it tear3 up the holiest attachments, and induces the ministers of 
religion, as much as in them lies, to carve the divine law to a fitting 
with its own infernal exigencies. 


back. We had to work, even m long summer days, 
till twelve o'clock, before we tasted a morsel, men, 
women, and children all being served alike. At 
noon the cart appeared with our breakfast. It was 
in large trays, and was set on the ground. There 
was bread, of which a piece was cut off for each 
person ; then there was small hominy boiled, that 
is, Indian-corn, ground in the hand-mill, and be- 
sides this two herrings for each of the men and 
women, and one for each of the children. Our 
drink was the water in the ditches, whatever might 
be its state; if the ditches were dry, water was 
brought to us by the boys. The salt fish made us 
always thirsty, but no other drink than water was 
ever allowed. However thirsty a slave may be, he 
is not allowed to leave his employment for a mo- 
ment to get water ; he can only have it when the 
hands in working have reached the ditch, at the 
end of the rows. The overseer stood with his 
watch in his hand, to give us just an hour; when 
he said, ' Rise,' we had to rise and go to work again. 
The women who had children laid them down by 
the hedge-row, and gave them straws and other tri- 
fles to play with ; here they were in danger from 
snakes ; I have seen a large snake found coiled 
round the neck and face of a child, when its mother 
went to suckle it at dinner-time. The hands work 
in a line by the side of each other ; the overseer 
puts the swiftest hands in the fore row, and all must 
keep up with them. One black man is kept on pur- 
pose to whip the others in the field ; if he does not 
floa with sufficient severity, he is flowered himself: 

11* 03 ' 

he whips severely, to keep the whip from his own 
back. If a man have a wife in the same field with 
himself, he chooses a row by the side of hers, that, 


with extreme labor, he may, if possible, help her. 
But he will not be in the same field if he can help 
it; for, with his hardest labor, he often cannot save 
her from being flogged, and he is obliged to stand 
by and see it ; he is always liable to see her taken 
home at night, stripped naked, and whipped before 
all the men. On the estate I am speaking of, those 
women who had sucking children suffered much 
from their breasts becoming full of milk, the infants 
being left at home ; they therefore could not keep 
up with the other hands. I have seen the overseer 
beat them with raw hide, so that blood and milk 
flew mingled from their breasts. A woman who 
gives offence in the field, and is large in the family 
way, is compelled to lie down over a hole made to 
receive her corpulency, and is flogged with the 
whip, or beat with a paddle, which has holes in it ; 
at every hole comes a blister. One of my sisters 
was so severely punished in this way, that labor 
was brought on, and the child was born in the field. 
This very overseer, Mr. Brooks, killed in this man- 
ner a girl named Mary; her father and mother were 
in the field at the time. He killed, also, a boy about 
twelve years old. He had no punishment, or even 
trial, for either. 

There was no dinner till dark, when he gave the 
order to knock off and go home. The meal then 
was the same as in the morning, except that we 
had meat twice a week. 

On very few estates are the colored people pro- 
vided with any bedding : the best masters give 
only a blanket ; this master gave none ; a board, 
which the slave might pick up any where on the 
estate, was all he had to lie on. If he wished to 
procure bedding, he could only do so by working at 


nights. For warmth, therefore, the negroes gener- 
ally sleep near a large fire, whether in the kitchen, 
or in their log huts; their legs are often in this way 
blistered and greatly swelled, and sometimes badly 
burnt : they suffer severely from this cause. 

When the water-mill did not supply meal enough, 
we had to grind with the hand-mill. The night 
was employed in this work, without any thing being 
taken from the labor of the day. We had to take 
turn at it, women as well as men ; enough was to 
be ground to serve for the following day. 

I was eight months in the field. My master, Mr. 
Sawyer, agreed to allow me eight dollars a month, 
while so employed, towards buying myself; it will 
be seen he did not give me even that. When I 
first went to work in the corn-field, I had paid him 
$230 towards this third buying of my freedom. I 
told him, one night, I could not stand his field work 
any longer ; he asked, why ; I said I was almost 
starved to death, and had long been unaccustomed 
to this severe labor. He wanted to know why I 
could not stand it as well as the rest. I told him 
he knew well I had not been used to it for a long 
time; that his overseer was the worst that had ever 
been on the plantation, and that I could not stand 
it. He said he would direct Mr. Brooks to give 
each of us a pint of meal or corn every evening, 
which we might bake, and which would serve us 
next morning, till our breakfast came at noon. The 
black people were much rejoiced that I got this ad- 
ditional allowance for them. But I was not satis- 
fied ; I wanted liberty. 

On Sunday morning, as master was sitting in his 
porch, I went to him, and offered to give him the 
$230 I had already paid him, if, beside them, 



he would take for my freedom the $600 he had 
given for me. He drove me away, saying I had no 
way to get the money. I sat down for a time, and 
went to him again. I repeated my offer to procure 
the $631), and he again said I could not. He 
called his wife out of the room to the porch, and 
said to her, ' Don't you think Moses has taken to 
getting drunk? ' She asked me if it was so ; I de- 
nied it, when she inquired what was the matter. 
Master replied, ' Don't you think he wants me to 
sell him ? ' She said, ' Moses, we would not take 
any money for you. Captain Cormack put a thou- 
sand dollars for you on the supper table last Friday 
night, and Mr. Sawyer would not touch it ; he 
wants you to be overseer in the Dismal Swamp.' 
I replied, ' Captain Cormack never said any thing 
to me about buying me ; I would cut my throat 
from ear to ear rather than go to him. I know 
what made him say so ; he is courting Miss Patsey, 
and he did it to make himself look bier. 5 Mistress^ 
laughed and turned away, and slammed to the 
door; master shook himself with laughing, and put 
the paper he was reading before his face, knowing 
that I spoke the truth. Captain Cormack was an 
old man who went on crutches. Miss Patsey was 
the finest of master's daughters. Master drove me 
away from him again. 

On Monday morning, Mr. Brooks, the overseer, 
blew the horn as usual for all to go to the field. I 
refused to go. I went to master, and told him that 
if he would give me a paper, I would go and fetch 
the $690 ; he then gave me a paper, stating that he 
was willing to take that sum for my freedom : so I 
hired an old horse and started for Norfolk, fifty 
miles off. 


When I reached Deep Creek, 1 went to the 
house of Captain Edward Minner. He was very 
glad to see me, for in former days I had done much 
business for him ; he said how sorry he had been 
to hear that I was at field work. He inquired 
where I was going. I said, to Norfolk, to get some 
of the merchants to let me have money to buy my- 
self. He replied, « What did I always say to you ? 
Was it not, that I would let you have the money 
at any time, if you would only tell me when you 
could be sold 1 ' He called Mrs. Minner into the 
room, and told her I could be sold for my freedom; 
she was rejoiced to hear it. He said, 'Put up your 
horse at Mr. Western's tavern, for you need go no 
farther ; I have plenty of old rusty dollars, and no 
man shall put his hand on your collar again to say 
you are a slave. Come and stay with me to-night, 
and in the morning I will get Mr. Garret's horse, 
and go with you.' 

Next morning we set off, and found master at 
Major Farrence's, at the cross canal, where I knew 
he was to be that day, to sell his share of the ca- 
nal. When I saw him, he told me to go forward 
home, for he would not sell me. I felt sick and 
sadly disappointed. Captain Minner stepped up to 
him, and showed him the paper he had given me, 
saying, * Mr. Sawyer, is not this your hand-writing 1 ' 
He replied, ' Mistress said, the last word when I 
came away, I was not to sell him, but send him 
home again.' Captain Minner said, ' Mind, gentle- 
men, I do not want him for a slave ; I want to buy 
him for freedom. He will repay me the money, 
and I shall not charge him a cent of interest for it. 
I would not have a colored person, to drag me down 
to bell, for all the money in the world/ A gentle- 


man who was by said it was a shame I should be 
so treated ; I had bought myself so often that Mr. 
Sawyer ought to let me go. The very worst man 
as an overseer over the persons employed in dig- 
ging the canal, Mr. Wiley M'Pherson, was there ; 
he was never known to speak in favor of a colored 
person ; even he said that Mr. Sawyer ought to let 
me go, as I had been sold so often. At length, Mr. 
Sawyer consented I should go for $650, and would 
take no less. I wished Captain Minner to give the 
extra $50, and not stand about it. I believe it was 
what M'Pherson said that induced my master to let 
me go ; for he was well known for his great sever- 
ity to colored people ; so that after even he had said 
so, master could not stand out. The Lord must 
have opened M'Pherson's heart to say it. 

I have said this M'Pherson was an overseer 
where slaves were employed in cutting canals. 
The labor there is very severe. The ground is 
often very boggy ; the negroes are up to the mid- 
dle, or much deeper, in mud and water, cutting 
away roots and baling out mud ; if they can keep 
their heads above water, they work on. They lodge 
in huts, or, as they are called, camps, made of shin- 
gles or boards. They lie down in the mud which 
has adhered to them, making a great fire to dry 
themselves, and keep off the cold. No bedding 
whatever is allowed them ; it is only by work done 
over his task that any of them can get a blanket. 
They are paid nothing, except for this overwork. 
Their masters come once a month to receive the 
money for their labor; then, perhaps, some few 
very good masters will give them $2 each, some 
others $1, some a pound of tobacco, and some 
nothing at all. The food is more abundant than 


that of field slaves: indeed, it is the best allowance 
in America — it consists of a peck of meal and six 
pounds of pork per week ; the pork is commonly not 
good ; it is damaged, and is bought, as cheap as pos- 
sible, at auctions. 

M'Pherson gave the same task to each slave ; of 
course, the weak ones often failed to do it. I have 
often seen him tie up persons and flog them in the 
morning, only because they were unable to get the 
previous day's task done; after they were flogged, 
pork or beef brine was put on their bleeding backs 
to increase the pain ; he sitting by, resting himself, 
and seeino- it done. After being thus flogged and 
pickled, the sufferers often remained tied up all day, 
the feet just touching the ground, the legs tied, and 
pieces of wood put between the legs. All the mo- 
tion allowed was a slight turn of the neck. Thus 
exposed and helpless, the yellow flies and musqui- 
toes in great numbers would settle on the bleeding 
and smarting back, and put the sufferer to extreme 
torture. This continued all day, for they were not 
taken down till night. In flogging, he would some- 
times tie the slave's shirt over his head, that he 
might not flinch when the blow was coming; some- 
times he would increase his misery, by blustering, 
and calling out that he was coming to flog again, 
which he did or did not, as happened. I have seen 
him flog them with his own hands till their entrails 
were visible ; and I have seen the sufferers dead 
when they were taken down. He never was called 
to account, in any way for it. 

It is not uncommon for flies to blow the sores 
made by flogging ; in that case, we get a strong 
weed growing in those parts, called the Oak of Je- 
rusalem ; we boil it at night, and wash the sores 


with the liquor, which is extremely bitter. On this 
the creepers or maggots come out. To relieve 
them in some degree, after severe flogging, their 
fellow-slaves rub their backs with part of their little 
allowance of fat meat. 

For fear the slaves should run away, while una- 
ble to work from flogging, he kept them chained 
till they could work again. This man had from 
500 to 700 men under his control. When out of 
other employment, I sometimes worked under him, 
and saw his doings. I believe it was the word of 
this man which gained my freedom. He is dead 7 
but there are yet others like him on public works. 

When the great kindness of Captain Minner had 
set me clear of Mr. Sawyer, I went to my old oc- 
cupation of working the canal boats. These I 
took on shares, as before. After a time, I was dis- 
abled for a year from following this employment by 
a severe attack of rheumatism, caught by frequent 
exposure to severe weather. I was anxious, how- 
ever, to be earning something towards the repay- 
ment of Captain Minner, lest any accident, unfore- 
seen by him or me, should even yet deprive me of 
the liberty for which 1 so longed, and for which I 
had suffered so much. I therefore had myself car- 
ried in a lighter up a cross canal in the Dismal 
Swamp, and to the other side of Drummond's Lake. 
I was left on the shore, and there I built myself a 
little hut, and had provisions brought to me as op- 
portunity served. Here, among snakes, bears, and 
panthers, whenever my strength was sufficient, I 
cut down a juniper-tree, and converted it into 
cooper's timber. The camp, like those commonly 
set up for negroes, was entirely open on one side * 
on that side a fire is lighted at night, and a person 


sleeping puts his feet towards it. One night I was 
awoke by some animal smelling my face, and snuff- 
ing strongly ; I felt its cold muzzle. I suddenly 
thrust out rny arms, and shouted with all my might; 
it was frightened, and made off. I do not know 
whether it was a bear or a panther ; but it seemed 
as tall as a large calf. I slept, of course, no more 
that night. I put my trust in the Lord, and con- 
tinued on the spot; I was never attacked again. 

I recovered, and went to the canal boats again ; 
by the end of three years from the time he laid 
down the money, I entirely repaid my very kind 
and excellent friend. During this time he made 
no claim whatever on my services ; I was altogeth- 
er on the footing of a free man, as far as a colored 
man can there be free. 

When, at length, I had repaid Captain Minner, 
and had got my free papers, so that my freedom 
was quite secure, my feelings were greatly excited. 
I felt to myself so light, that I could almost think 
I could fly; in my sleep I was always dreaming of 
flying over woods and rivers. My gait was so al- 
tered by my gladness, that people often stopped 
me, saying, • Grandy, what is the matter 1 ' I ex- 
cused myself as well as I could ; but many per- 
ceived the reason, and said, ' O ! he is so pleased 
with having got his freedom.' Slavery will teach 
any man to be glad when he gets freedom. 

My good master, Captain Minner, sent me to 
Providence, in Rhode Island, to stay a year and a 
day, in order to gain my residence. But I staid 
only two months. Mr. Howard's vessel came there 
laden with corn. I longed much to see my mas- 
ter and mistress, for the kindness they had done 
me, and so went home in the schooner. On my 


arrival, I did not stop at my own house, except io 
ask my wife at the door how she and the children 
were in health, but went up the town to see Cap- 
tain and Mrs. Minner. They were very glad to 
see me, and consulted with me about my way of 
getting a living. I wished to go on board the New 
York and Philadelphia packets, but feared I should 
be troubled for my freedom. Captain Minner 
thought I might venture, and I therefore engaged 
myself. I continued in that employment till his 
death, which happened about a year alter my re- 
turn from Providence. Then I returned to Bos- 
ton ; for, while he lived, I knew I could rely on his 
protection ; but when I lost my friend, I thought it 
best to go wholly to the Northern States. 

At Boston I went to work at sawing wood, saw- 
ing with the whip-saw, laboring in the coal-yards, 
loading and unloading vessels, &c. After laboring 
in this way for a few months, I went a voyage to 
St. John's, in Porto Rico, with Captain Cobb, in the 
schooner New Packet. On the return voyage, the 
vessel got ashore on Cape Cod ; we left her, after 
doing in vain what we could to right her : she was 
afterwards recovered. I went several other voyages, 
and particularly two to the Mediterranean : the last 
was to the East Indies, in the ship James Murray, 
Captain Woodbury, owner Mr. Gray. My entire 
savings, up to the period of my return from this 
voyage, amounted to $300 ; I sent it to Virginia, 
and bought my wife. She came to me at Boston. 
I dared not go myself to fetch her, lest I should be 
again deprived of my liberty, as often happens to 
free colored people. 

At the time, called the time of the Insurrection, 
about eight years ago, when the whites said the 


colored people were going to rise, and shot, hanged, 
and otherwise destroyed many of them, Mrs. M in- 
ner thought she saw me in the street, and fainted 
there. The soldiers were seizing all the blacks 
they could find, and she knew, if 1 were there, I 
should be sure to suffer with the rest. She was 
mistaken ; I was not there. 

My son's master, at Norfolk, sent a letter to me 
at Boston, to say, that if I could raise $450, I might 
have his freedom ; he was then fifteen years old. 
I had again saved $300. I knew the master was a 
drinking man, and was therefore very anxious to 
get my son out of his hands. I went to Norfolk, 
running the risk of my liberty, and took my $300 
with me, to make the best bargain I could. Many 
gentlemen in Boston, my friends, advised me not to 
go myself; but I was anxious to get my boy's free- 
dom, and I knew that nobody in Virginia had any 
cause of complaint against me. So, notwithstand- 
ing their advice, I determined to go. 

When the vessel arrived there, they said it was 
against the law for me to go ashore. The mayor 
of the city said I had been among the cursed Yan- 
kees too long ; he asked me whether I did not 
know that it was unlawful for me to land, to which 
I replied, that I did not know it, for I could neither 
read nor write. The merchants for whom I had 
formerly done business came on board, and said 
they cared for neither the mare (mayor) nor the 
horse, and insisted that I should go ashore. I told 
the mayor the business on which I came, and he 
gave me leave to stay nine days, telling me that if I 
were not gone in that time, he would sell me for 
the good of the state. 

I offered mv bov's master the $300 ; he counted 


the money, but put it back to me, refusing to take 
less than $450. I went on board to return to Bos- 
ton. We met with head winds, and put back three 
times to Norfolk, anchoring each time just opposite 
the jail. The nine days had expired, and I feared 
the mayor would find me on board and sell me. I 
could see the jail, full of colored people, and even 
the whipping-post, at which they were constantly 
enduring the lash. While we were lying there by 
the jail, two vessels came from Eastern Shore, Vir- 
ginia, laden with cattle and colored people. The 
cattle were lowing for their calves, and the men 
and women were crying for their husbands, wives, 
or children. The cries and groans were terrible, 
notwithstanding there was a whipper on board each 
vessel, trying to compel the poor creatures to keep 
silence. These vessels lay close to ours. I had 
been a long time away from such scenes ; the sight 
affected me very much, and added greatly to my 

One day I saw a boat coming from the shore 
with white men in it. I thought they were officers 
coming to take me ; and such was my horror of 
slavery, that I twice ran to the ship's waist to jump 
overboard into the strong ebb tide then running, to 
drown myself; but a strong impression on my mind 
restrained me each time. 

Once more we got under way for New York ; 
but, meeting again with head winds, we ran into 
Maurice's River, in Delaware Bay. New Jersey, 
in which that place lies, is not a slave state. So I 
said to the captain, ' Let me have a boat, and set 
me on the free land once more ; then I will travel 
home over land; fori will not run the risk of going 
back to Virginia any more. The captain said there 


was no danger, but I exclaimed, ' No, no ! captain, 
I will not try it ; put my feet on free land once 
again, and I shall be safe.' When I once more 
touched the free land, the burden of my miud was 
removed; if two ton weight had been taken off me, 
the relief would not have seemed so great. 

From Maurice's Creek I travelled to Philadel- 
phia, and at that place had a letter written to my 
wife, at Boston, thanking God that I was on free 
land again. On arriving at Boston, I borrowed 
6150 of a friend, and, going to New York, I ob- 
tained the help of Mr. John Williams to send the 
8450 to Norfolk ; thus, at length, I bought my 
son's freedom. I met him at New York, aud 
brought him on to Boston. 

Six other of my children, three boys and three 
girls, were sold to New Orleans. Two of these 
daughters have bought their own freedom. The 
eldest of them, Catherine, was sold three times af- 
ter she was taken away from Virginia; the first 
time was by auction. Her last master but one was 
a Frenchman ; she worked in his sugar-cane and 
cotton fields. Another Frenchman inquired for a 
girl, on whom he could depend, to wait on his wife, 
who was in a consumption. Her master offered 
him my daughter ; they went into the field to see 
her, and the bargain was struck. Her new master 
gave her up to his sick wife, on whom she waited 
till her death. As she had waited exceedingly well 
on his wife, her master offered her a chance of buy- 
ing her freedom. She objected to his terms as too 
high ; for he required her to pay him $4 a week 
out of her earnings, and 81,200 for her freedom. 
He said he could get more for her, and told her 
Bhe might get plenty of washing, at a dollar a 


dozen : at last she agreed. She Jived near the 
river side, and obtained plenty of work. So anx- 
ious was she to obtain her freedom, that she worked 
nearly all her time, days and nights, and Sundays. 
She found, however, she gained nothing by work- 
ing on Sundays, and therefore left it off. She paid 
her master punctually her weekly hire, and also 
something towards her freedom, for which he gave 
her receipts. A good stewardess was wanted for 
a steamboat on the Mississippi; she was hired for 
the place at §30 a month, which is the usual salary ; 
she also had liberty to sell apples and oranges on 
board ; and, commonly, the passengers give from 
twenty-five cents to a dollar to a stewardess who 
attends them well. Her entire incoming, wages 
and all, amounted to about sixty dollars a month. 
She remained at this employment till she had paid 
the entire sum of § 1,200 for her freedom. 

As soon as she obtained her free papers, she left 
the steamboat, thinking she could find her sister 
Charlotte. Her first two trials were unsuccessful ; 
but on the third attempt she found her at work in 
the cane-field. She showed her sister's master her 
own free papers, and told him how she had bought 
herself; he said that, if her sister would pay him 
as much as she paid her master, she might go too. 
They agreed, and he gave her a pass. The two 
sisters went, on board a steamboat, and worked to- 
gether for the wages of one, till they had saved the 
entire $1,200 for the freedom of the second sister. 
The husband of Charlotte was dead ; her children 
were left behind in the cotton and cane-fields ; 
their master refuses to take less than $2,400 for 
them ; their names and ages are as follows : Zeno, 
about fifteen ; Antoinette, about thirteen ; Joseph, 


about eleven ; and Josephine, about ten years old. 
Of my other children, I only know that one, a 
girl, named Betsey, is a little way from Norfolk, in 
Virginia. Her master, Mr. William Dixon, is 
willing to sell her -for $500. 

I do not know where any of my other four chil- 
dren are, nor whether they be dead or alive. It 
will be very difficult to find them out : for the 
names of slaves are commonly changed with every 
change of master : they usually bear the name of 
the master to whom they belong at the time : they 
have no family name of their own by which they 
can be traced. Through this circumstance, and 
their ignorance of reading and writing, to which 
they are compelled by law, all trace between pa- 
rents and children, who are separated from them in 
childhood, is lost in a few years. When, therefore, 
a child is sold away from its mother, she feels that 
she is parting from it forever ; there is little likeli- 
hood of her ever knowing what of good or evil be- 
falls it. The way of finding out a friend or rela- 
tive who has been sold away for any length of 
time, or to any great distance, is to trace them, if 
possible, to one master after another, or if that 
cannot be done, to inquire about the neighborhood 
where they are supposed to be, until some one i3 
found who can tell that such or such a person 
belonged to such or such a master ; and the per- 
son supposed to be the one sought for, may, 
perhaps, remember the names of the persons to 
whom his father and mother belonged : there is 
little to be learned from his appearance, for so 
many years may have passed away that he may 
have grown out of the memory of his parents, or 
his nearest relations. There are thus no lasting 


family ties to bind relations together, not even the 
nearest, and this aggravates their distress when 
they are sold from each other. I have little hope 
of rinding my four children again. 

I have lived in Boston ever since I bought my 
freedom, except during the last year, which I have 
spent at Portland, in the state of Maine. 

I have yet said nothing of my father. He was 
often sold through the failure of his successive 
owners. When I was a little boy, he was sold 
away from us to a distance : he was then so far off 
that he could not come to see us oftener than once 
a year. After that, he was sold to go still farther 
away, and then he could not come at all. I do not 
know what has become of him. 

When my mother became old, she was sent to 
live in a little lonely log-hut in the woods. Aged 
and worn-out slaves, whether men or women, are 
commonly so treated. No care is taken of them, 
except, perhaps, that a little ground is cleared 
about the hut, on which the old' slave, if able, may 
raise a little corn. As far as the owner is con- 
cerned, they live or die, as it happens : it is just the 
same thing as turning out an old horse. Their 
children, or other near relations, if living in the 
neighborhood, take it by turns to go at night with 
a supply saved out of their own scanty allowance 
of food, as well as to cut wood and fetch water for 
them : this is done entirely through the good feel- 
ings of the slaves, and not through the masters' 
taking care that it is done. On these night-visits, 
the aged inmate of the hut is often found crying 
on account of sufferings from disease or extreme 
weakness, or from want of food or water in the 
course of the day : many a time, when I have 


drawn near to my mother's hut, I have heard her 
grieving and crying on these accounts : she was 
old and blind too, and so unable to help herself. 
She was not treated worse than others : it is the 
general practice. Some few good masters do not 
treat their old slaves so: they employ them in 
doing light jobs about the house and garden. 

My eldest sister is in Elizabeth City. She has 
five children, who, of course, are slaves. Her 
master is willing to sell her for $100 : she is grow- 
ing old. One of her children, a young man, cannot 
be bought under $900. 

My sister Tamar, who belonged to the same 
master with myself, had children very fast. Her 
husband had hard owners, and lived at a distance. 
When a woman who has many children belongs to 
an owner who is under age, as ours was, it is cus- 
tomary to put her and the children out yearly to 
the person who will maintain them for the least 
money, the person taking them having the benefit 
of whatever work the woman can do. But my 
sister was put to herself in the woods. She had a 
bit of ground cleared, and was left to hire herself 
out to labor. On the ground she raised corn and 
flax ; and obtained a peck of corn, some herrings, 
or a piece of meat, for a day's work among the 
neighboring owners. In this way she brought up 
her children. Her husband could help her but 
little. As soon as each of the children became big 
enough, it was sold away from her. 

After parting thus with five, she was sold along 
with the sixth, (about a year and a half old,) to the 
speculators; these are persons who buy slaves in 
Carolina and Virginia, to sell them in Georgia and 
New Orleans. After travelling with them more 


than one hundred miles, she made her escape, but 
could not obtain her child to take it with her. On 
her journey homeward she travelled by night, and 
hid herself in thick woods by day. She was in 
great danger on the road, but in three weeks 
reached the woods near us : there she had to keep 
herself concealed : I, my mother, and her husband, 
knew where she was : she lived in a den she made 
for herself. She sometimes ventured down to my 
mother's hut, where she was hid in a hollow under 
the floor. Her husband lived ten miles off; he 
would sometimes set off after his day's work was 
done, spend part of the night with her, and get 
back before next sunrise : sometimes he would 
spend Sunday with her. We all supplied her with 
such provisions as we could save. It was neces- 
sary to be very careful in visiting her ; we tied 
pieces of wood or bundles of rags to our feet, that 
no track might be made. 

In the wood she had three children born ; one of 
them died. She had not recovered from the birth 
of the youngest when she was discovered and taken 
to the house of her old master. 

She was afterwards sold to Culpepper, who used 
her very cruelly. He was beating her dreadfully, 
and the blood was streaming from her head and 
back one day when I happened to go to his house. 
I was greatly grieved, and asked his leave to find a 
person to buy her : instead of answering me, he 
struck at me with an axe, and I was obliged to get 
away as fast as I could. Soon after this he failed, 
and she was offered for sale in Norfolk ; there Mr. 
Johnson bought her and her two children, out of 
friendship for me: he treated her exceedingly well, 
and she served him faithfully ; but it was not long 


before she was claimed by a person to whom Cul- 
pepper had mortgaged her before he sold her to 
Johnson. This person sold her to Long, of Eliza- 
beth City, where again she was very badly treated. 
After a time, this person sold her to go to Georgia : 
she was very ill at the time, and was taken away in 
a cart. I hear from her sometimes, and am very 
anxious to purchase her freedom, if ever I should 
be able. Two of her children are now in North 
Carolina, and are longing to obtain their freedom. 
I know nothing of the others, nor am I likely ever 
to hear of them ao-ain. 


The treatment of slaves is mildest near the bor- 
ders, where the free and slave states join : it be- 
comes more severe, the farther we go from the 
free states. It is more severe in the west and 
south than where I lived. The sale of slaves 
most frequently takes place from the milder to the 
severer parts : there is great traffic in slaves in that 
direction, which is carried on by the speculators. 
On the frontier between the slave and free States 
there is a guard; no colored person can go over a 
ferry without a pass. By these regulations, and 
the great numbers of patrols, escape is made next 
to impossible. 

Formerly slaves were allowed to have religious 
meetings of their own ; but after the insurrection 
which I spoke of before, they were forbidden to 
meet even for worship. Often they are flogged if 
they are found singing or praying at home. They 
may go to the places of worship used by the 
whites; but they like their own meetings better. 
My wife's brother Isaac was a colored preacher. 
A number of slaves went privately into a wood to 
hold meetings; when they were found out, they 


were flogged, and each was forced to tell who else 
was there. Three were shot, two of whom were 
killed, and the other was badly wounded. For 
preaching to them, Isaac was flogged, and his back 
pickled; when it was nearly well, he was flogged 
and pickled again, and so on for some months ; then 
his back was suffered to get well, and he was sold. 
A little while before this, his wife was sold away 
with an infant at her breast ; and out of six chil- 
dren, four had been sold away by one at a time. 
On the way with his buyers he dropped down 
dead ; his heart was broken. 

Having thus narrated what has happened to my- 
self, my relatives and near friends, I will add a few 
matters about slaves and colored people in general. 

Slaves are under fear in every word they speak. 
If, in their master's kitchen, they let slip an expres- 
sion of discontent, or a wish for freedom, it is often 
reported to the master or mistress by the children 
of the family who may be playing about : severe 
flogging is often the consequence. 

I have already said that it is forbidden by law 
to teach colored persons to read or write. A few 
well-disposed white young persons, of the families 
to which the slaves belonged, have ventured to 
teach them, but they dare not let it be known they 
have done so. 

The proprietors get new land cleared in this way. 
They first ' dead ' a piece of ground in the woods 
adjoining the plantation: by 'deading' is meant 
killing the trees, by cutting a nick all round each, 
quite through the Dark. Out of this ground each 
colored person has a piece as large as he can tend 
after his other work is done ; the women have 
pieces in like manner. The slave works at night, 


cutting down the timber and clearing the ground ; 
after it is cleared, he has it for his own use for two 
or three years, as may be agreed on. As these 
new clearings fie between the woods and the old 
cultivated land, the squirrels and raccoons first come 
at the crops on them, and thus those on the plant- 
er's land are saved from much waste. When the 
negro has had the land for the specified time, and 
it has become fit for the plough, the master takes 
it, and he is removed to another new piece. It is 
no uncommon thing for the land to be taken from 
him before the time is out, if it has sooner become 
fit for the plough. When the crop is gathered, the 
master comes to see how much there is of it ; he 
then gives the negro an order to sell that quantity ; 
without that order, no storekeeper dare buy it. The 
slave lays out the money in something tidy to go to 
meeting in, and something to take to his wife. 

The evidence of a black man, or of ever so many 
black men, stands for nothing against that of one 
white ; in consequence of it the free negroes are 
liable to great cruelties. They have had their 
dwellings entered, their bedding and furniture de- 
stroyed, and themselves, their wives and children, 
beaten ; some have even been taken, with their 
wives, into the woods, and tied up, flogged, and 
left there. There is nothing which a white man 
may not do against a black one, if he only takes 
care that no other white man can give evidence 
against him. 

A law has lately been passed in New Orleans 
prohibiting any free colored person from going there. 

The coasting packets of the ports on the Atlan- 
tic commonly have colored cooks. When a vessel 
goes from New York or Boston to a port in the 


slaveholding states, the black cook is usually put 
in jail till the vessel sails again. 

No colored person can travel without a pass. If 
he cannot show it, he may be flogged by any body ; 
in such a case he often is seized and flogged by the 
patrols. All through the slave states there are 
patrols ; they are so numerous that they cannot be 
easily escaped. 

The only time when a man can visit his wife, 
when they are on different estates, is Saturday 
evening and Sunday. If they be very near to 
each other, he may sometimes see her on Wednes- 
day evening. He must always return to his work 
by sunrise ; if he fail to do so, he is flogged. When 
he has got together all the little things he can for 
his wife and children, and has walked many miles 
to see them, he may find that they have all been 
sold away, some in one direction, and some in 
another. He gives up all hope of seeing them 
again, but he dare not utter a word of complaint. 

It often happens that, when a slave wishes to 
visit his wife on another plantation, his own master 
is busy or from home, and therefore he cannot get 
a pass. He ventures without it. If there be any 
little spite against hiswife or himself, he may be 
asked for it when he arrives, and, not having it, he 
may be beaten with thirty-nine stripes, and sent 
away. On his return, he may be seized by the 
patrol, and flogged again for the same reason; and 
he will not wonder if he is again seized and beaten 
for the third time. 

If a negro has given offence to the patrol, even 
by so innocent a matter as dressing tidily to go to a 
place of worship, he will be seized by one of them, 
and another will tear up his pass ; while one is 


flogging him, the others will look another way ; so 
when he or his master makes complaint of his hav- 
ing been beaten without cause, and he points out 
the person who did it, the others will swear they 
saw no one beat him. His oath, being that of a 
black man, would stand for nothing ; but he may 
not even be sworn ; and, in such a case, his tor- 
mentors are safe, for they were the only whites 

In all the slave states there are men who make 
a trade of whipping negroes ; they ride about in- 
quiring for jobs of persons who keep no overseer ; 
if there is a negro to be whipped, whether man or 
woman, this man is employed when he calls, and 
does it immediately ; his fee is half a dollar. Wid- 
ows and other females, having negroes, get them 
whipped in this way. Many mistresses will insist 
on the slave who has been flogged begging pardon 
for her fault on her knees, and thanking her for the 

A white man, who lived near me in Camden 
county, Thomas Evidge, followed this business. 
He was also sworn whipper at the court house. 
A law was passed that any white man detected in 
stealing should be whipped. Mr. Dozier frequent- 
ly missed hogs, and flogged many of his negroes on 
suspicion of stealing them ; when he could not, in 
his suspicions, fix on any one in particular, he 
flogged them all round, saying that he was sure of 
having punished the right one. Being one day 
shooting in his woods, he heard the report of 
anothet gun, and shortly after met David Evidge, 
the nephew of the whipper, with one of his hogs 
on his back, which had just been shot. David was 
sent to prison, convicted of the theft, and sen- 


tenced to be flogged. His uncle, who vapored 
about greatly in flogging slaves, and taunted them 
with unfeeling speeches while he did it, could not 
bear the thought of flogging his nephew, and hired 
a man to do it. The person pitched on chanced to 
be a sailor ; he laid it well on the thief; pleased 
enough were the colored people to see a white back 
for the first .time subjected to the lash. 

Another man of the same business, George Wil- 
kins, did no greater credit to the trade. Mr. Car- 
nie, on Western Branch, Virginia, often missed 
corn from his barn. Wilkins, the whipper, was 
very officious in pointing out this slave and that, as 
very likely to be the thief; with nothing against 
them but his insinuations, some were very severely 
punished, being flogged by this very Wilkins, and 
others, at his instigation, were sold away. One 
night, Mr. Carnie, unknown to his colored people, 
set a steel trap in the barn ; some of the negroes, 
passing the barn before morning, saw Wilkins stand- 
ing there, but were not aware he was caught. They 
called the master, that he might seize the thief be- 
fore he could escape ; he came and teased Wilkins 
during the night ; in the morning, he exposed him 
to the view of the neighbors, and then set him at 
liberty without further punishment. 

The very severe punishments to which slaves 
are subjected, for trifling offences, or none at all, 
their continued liability to all kinds of ill usage, 
without a chance of redress, and the agonizing 
feelings they endure at being separated from the 
dearest connections, drive many of them to des- 
peration, and they abscond. They hide themselves 
in the woods, where they remain for months, and, 
in some cases, for years. When caught, they are 


flogged with extreme severity, their backs are 
pickled, and the flogging repeated as before de- 
scribed : after months of this torture, the back is 
allowed to heal, and the slave is sold away. Espe- 
cially is this done when the slave has attempted to 
reach a free state. 

In violent thunder-storms, when the whites have 
got between feather-beds to be safe from the light- 
ning, I have often seen negroes, the aged as well 
as others, go out, and, lifting up their hands, thank 
God that judgment was coming at last. So cruelly 
are many of them used, that judgment, they think, 
would be a happy release from their horrible slavery. 

The proprietors, though they live in luxury, gen- 
erally die in debt : their negroes are so hardly 
treated that no profit is made by their labor. 
Many of them are great gamblers. At the death 
of a proprietor, it commonly happens that his 
colored people are sold towards paying his debts. 
So it must and will be with the masters while 
slavery continues: when freedom is established, I 
believe they will begin to prosper greatly. 

Before I close this Narrative, I ought to express 
my grateful thanks to the many friends in the 
Northern States, who have encouraged and assisted 
me : I shall never forget to speak of their kindness, 
and to pray for their prosperity. I am delighted in 
saying, that not only to myself, but to very many 
other colored persons, they have lent a benevolent 
and helping hand. Last year, gentlemen whom I 
know bought no less than ten families from slavery; 
and this year they are pursuing the same good work. 
But for these numerous and heavy claims on their 
means and their kindness, I should have had no 
need to appeal to the generosity of the British pub- 


lie; they would gladly have helped me to redeem 
all my children and relations. 

When I first went to the Northern States, — which 
is about ten years ago, — although I was free as to 
the law, I was made to feel severely the difference 
between persons of different colors. No black man 
was admitted to the same seats in churches with 
the whites, nor to the inside of public conveyances, 
nor into street coaches or cabs : we had to be con- 
tent with the decks of steamboats in all weathers, 
night and day, not even our wives or children being 
allowed to go below, however it might rain, or snow, 
or freeze ; in various other ways, we were treated 
as though we were of a race of men below the 
whites. But the abolitionists boldly stood up for 
us, and,, through them, things are much changed 
for the better. Now, we may sit in any part of 
many places of worship, and are even asked into 
the pews of respectable white families ; many pub- 
lic conveyances now make no distinction between 
white and black. We begin to feel that we are 
really on the same footing as our fellow-citizens. 
They see we can and do conduct ourselves with 
propriety, and they are now admitting us, in many 
cases, to the same standing with themselves. 

During the struggles which have procured for us 
this justice from our fellow-citizens, we have been 
in the habit of looking in public places for some 
well-known abolitionists, and, if none that we knew 
were there, we addressed any person dressed as a 
duaker; these classes always took our part against 
ill usage, and we have to thank them for many a 
contest in our behalf. 

We were greatly delighted by the zealous efforts 
and powerful eloquence in our cause of Mr. George 


Thompson, who came from our English friends to 
aid our suffering brethren. He was hated and 
mobbed by bad men amongst the whites ; they put 
his life in great danger, and threatened destruction 
to all who sheltered him. We prayed for him, and 
did all we could to defend him. The Lord pre- 
served him, and thankful were we when he escaped 
from our country with his life. At that time, and 
ever since, we have had a host of American friends, 
who have labored for the cause night and day; they 
have nobly stood up for the rights and honor of the 
colored man ; but they did so at first in the midst 
of scorn and danger. Now, thank God, the case is 
very different. William Lloyd Garrison, who was 
hunted for his life by a mob in the streets of New 
York, has lately been chairman of a large meeting 
in favor of abolition, held in Faneuil Hall, the cel- 
ebrated public hall of Boston, called the ' Cradle of 

I am glad to say also that numbers of my colored 
brethren now escape from slavery ; some by pur- 
chasing their freedom, others by quitting, through 
many dangers and hardships, the land of bondage. 
The latter suffer many privations in their attempts 
to reach the free states. They hide themselves, 
during the day, in the woods and swamps; at night, 
they travel, crossing rivers by swimming or by boats 
they may chance to meet with, and passing over 
hills and meadows which they do not know : in 
these dangerous journeys they are guided by the 
north-star, for they only know that the land of free- 
dom is in the north. They subsist only on such 
wild fruit as they can gather, and as they are often 
very long on their way, they reach the free states 
almost like skeletons. On their arrival they have 


no friends but such as pity those who have been- 
in bondage, the number of whom, I am happy to 
say, is increasing ; but if they can meet with a man 
in a broad-brimmed hat and duaker coat, they 
speak to him without fear — relying on him as a 
friend. At each place the escaped slave inquires 
for an abolitionist or a duaker, and these friends of 
the colored man help them on their journey north- 
wards, until they are out of the reach of danger. 

Our untiring friends, the abolitionists, once ob- 
tained a law that no colored person should be seized 
as a slave within the free states ; this law would 
have been of great service to us, by ridding us of 
all anxiety about our freedom while we remained 
there ; but I am sorry to say, that it has lately been 
repealed, and that now, as before, any colored per- 
son who is said to be a slave, may be seized in the 
free states and carried away, no matter how long 
he may have resided there, as also may his chil- 
dren and their children, although they all may have 
been born there. I hope this law will soon be al- 
tered again. At present many escaped slaves are 
forwarded by their friends to Canada, where, under 
British rule, they are quite safe. There is a body 
of ten thousand of them in Upper Canada ; they 
are known for their good order, and loyalty to the 
British government; during the late troubles, they 
could always be relied on for the defence of the 
British possessions against the lawless Americans 
who attempted to invade them. 

As to the settlement of Liberia, on the coast of 
Africa, the free colored people of America do not 
willingly go to it. America is their home : if their 
forefathers lived in Africa, they themselves know 
nothing of that country. None but free colored 


people are taken there : if they would take slaves, 
they might have plenty of colonists. Slaves will 
go any where for freedom. 

We look very much to England for help to the 
cause of the slaves. Whenever we hear of the 
people of England doing good to black men, we 
are delighted, and run to tell each other the news. 
Our kind friends, the abolitionists, are very much 
encouraged when they hear of meetings and speech- 
es in England in our cause. The first of August, 
the day when the slaves in the West Indies were 
made free, is always kept as a day of rejoicing by 
the American colored free people. 

I do hope and believe that the cause of freedom 
to the blacks is becoming stronger and stronger 
every day. I pray for the time to come when 
freedom shall be established all over the world. 
Then will men love as brethren ; they will delight 
to do good to one another ; and they will thankfully 
worship the Father of All. 

And now I have only to repeat my hearty thanks 
to all who have done any thing towards obtaining 
liberty for my colored brethren, and especially to 
express my gratitude to those who have helped me 
to procure for myself, my wife, and so far of my 
children, the blessing of freedom — a blessing of 
which none can know the value, but he who has 
been a slave. Whatever profit may be obtained by 
the sale of this book, and all donations with which 
1 may be favored, will be faithfully employed in 
redeeming my remaining children and relatives 
from the dreadful condition of slavery. 


I have paid the following suras to redeem myself 
and relatives from slavery, viz : 

For my own freedom, . . . $1,850 
For my wife's " .... 300 

For my son's " 450 

Grandchild's " 400 

To redeem my kidnapped son, . 60 


I now wish to raise $100 to buy the freedom of 
my sister Mary, who is a slave at Elizabeth City, 
N. C. Her master says he will take that sura 
for her. M. G. 

Boston, Jan. 19, 1844.